Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

Robert Boice, Professors as Writers. A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing, Stillwater: New Forums Press, 1990.
My rating: *****

Professors As Writers Professors As Writers by Robert Boice

I have read quite a few books on writer’s block and Robert Boice’s work on this subject is by far the most helpful and practical. Even if this particular book is aimed specifically at academic writers, all other writers can benefit from its advice. Having said this, the problem of academic writer’s block is seldom addressed – with most manuals focusing on other types of writing.

In some ways, perhaps, academics are viewed as somewhat on the periphery of the general fold of ‘writers’. Academic writing is something that occurs without the romantic identity of ‘writer’ coming into play. There is an assumption, perhaps, that academic writing is merely reporting on research, rather than engaging in the creative craft shared by other writers.

There are rigorous and practical exercises in Boice’s book which include examining and changing the internal self talk that takes place when the writer thinks of writing. His plain, organised and painstaking academic approach is, for me at least, more helpful than some of the other new age and often slightly kitsch self help manuals available on the market.

Also of interest is the following: Boice set up a study involving 3 groups of academic writers:

1. The first group continued on with their usual habits – which were binge writing in occasional large blocks. This group produced an average of 17 pages a year;

2. The second group wrote every day and kept a personal record of their activity. They wrote an average of 64 pages a year;

3. The third group undertook daily writing AND shared their productivity records with others. This group produced an impressive 157 pages of writing a year.

2 thoughts on “Professors as Writers (1990)

  1. Megan says:

    Hi Clare,

    This book look really interesting. I like your comments about a writer’s identity and process of writing. Mary-Rose McCall speaks about writing from the right or creative side of the brain and then editing from the left or critical side of the brain. The trick is stop the left from intruding on the right and then the right intruding on the left.


  2. Clare says:

    Hi Megan, I wonder whether it isn’t more a matter of integrating the two sides of the brain so they work harmoniously together rather than sequentially? Academic work involves a lot of left brain activity – so it would be hard to separate the two.

    One of the good thing about Boice’s approach is that he suggests so many different approaches to the problem of writer’s block – there are so many different forms of it!


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